City Council passes Williams’ pro-tenant bill

City Council passes Williams’ pro-tenant bill
New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams speaks to protestors and other pro-tenant activists at Foley Square to call on the state legislature to strengthen rent laws this year Thursday, May 14, 2015, in New York.
Associated Press / Frank Franklin II, file

New York City Council this week passed Intro. 700, a bill sponsored by Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), deputy leader and chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, which is part of a Tenant Protection Package that aims to address the poor business practices of unscrupulous tenant relocation specialists, or as they are more commonly known, tenant relocators.

“Our city cannot stand by while tenants are being harassed out of their homes,” Williams told Caribbean Life. “There are too many unscrupulous owners of rent stabilized buildings who will do anything to have a tenant vacate their apartment, including hiring a tenant relocator to get the job done.

“Tenants don’t deserve to be intimidated out of their homes, and should be informed of their rights to refuse buyout offers,” added Williams, representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “I am proud to sponsor this legislation which will combat such egregious tenant harassment behavior, and thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and my Council colleagues for pushing these important reforms.”

Williams said that in New York City, there has been a long history of owners offering tenants money to vacate their apartments.

In recent years, however, he said there have been complaints from tenants that buyouts have become a form of harassment.

Williams said this issue arises most frequently when building owners have hired tenant relocation specialists, many of whom receive a fee for each vacancy, to try to convince tenants, many of whom are rent-regulated, to leave their apartments.

He said Int. 682, Int. 700, and Int. 757 are intended to address this issue.

Int. 700, sponsored by Williams and Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, would amend the Housing Maintenance Code’s definition of “harassment” to make it unlawful for a dwelling owner, or an owner’s agent, to make a tenant buyout offer without first notifying the tenant that they have the right to refuse the buyout offer, without disclosing that the person making the buyout offer has been hired by the tenant’s landlord.

Int. 757, sponsored by the Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would amend the administrative code to include repeated buyout offers, made after a tenant has asked for them to stop, as part of the definition of harassment under the Housing Maintenance Code.

Int. 682, sponsored by Council Members Garodnick and Williams, would create a licensing scheme for tenant relocation specialists. Under this legislation, the relocators would have to become licensed by first passing an exam, furnishing a surety bond, and paying a licensing fee.

“All of these laws will protect tenants and keep the process of buyout offers by land lords fair and honest,” Mark-Viverito said. “New Yorkers who live in rent-regulated housing have the right to stay in their homes, and no one should feel pressured, intimidated or coerced to accept an offer they don’t want to take. With this legislative package, we will ensure that rent-regulated tenants are protected from harassment and coercion.”

Garodnick said these relocators “can’t have a business built on tenant harassment and the city needs to step in.”

“Tenants should feel safe and secure in their homes,” he added. “That is impossible if they’re being pursued relentlessly by someone pushing them out of their home.”

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